Sunday, February 6, 2011

Same Old Wenga Boys...........

A quite remarkable result at St James' Park yesterday. Arsenal, 4-0 up after 26 minutes and still holding the same lead after 68 minutes, somehow contrived to draw the match 4-4 in a quite shocking collapse. Now all Gooners - in particular Jack Wilshire of recent twitter fame - will point to dodgy refereeeing and in particular the penalty decisions but the stark reality is they have no one to blame but themselves, and therein lies the problem with the Wenga Boys, they and in particular he are unable to do just that.

All managers put a positive spin on matters surrounding their team, media management is one of the most important jobs that the modern day manager has to undertake. The difference however between Wenger and masters of the art such as Mourinho or Ferguson is knowing how to manipulate the media and be objective and calculating when doing so.

Whenever results go against Arsenal, everyone's favourite Frenchman wheels out the excuses and the complaints and the hard luck stories. For all the good Wenger has brought to the English game (and there is a huge amount of that we would add) in terms of methods, player development, craft of his profession and aesthetically pleasing football, he has also managed to engineer a position for himself where he is the most unpopular of managers amongst his peers. Mourinho and Ferguson had well documented and long running spats with him although that can probably be put down to the level of direct competition. He has however an amazing capacity to enrage almost all around him with his constant whingeing and 'j'accuse'. David Moyes, Martin Jol, Sam Allardyce, Alex McLeish, Tony Pulis amongst others have all had cause to take particular issue with him over the years, in fact he was very lucky Jol didn't flatten him during one match.

Wenger is the epitome of the poor loser (admittedly most successful sportsman are all the same) wherein it is always somebody else's fault. The real reasons however that Arsenal have not won anything for several seasons (one Carling Cup in the post granted) is because his team are not good enough and more importantly tough enough character wise, and it is this lack of character that is a direct result of his actions. Wenger fosters a victim mentality as opposed to a siege one. The successful bad losers are people like Michael Schumacher, Tiger Woods, Alex Ferguson, they hate losing but they don't blame others, they look inwardly and strive to do better the next time.

Both Ferguson and Mourinho are masters of the carrot and stick. They praise their players to the hilt and defend them at all costs when they feel they may be under attack from the press but when the time is right they are not scared either to criticise them either. I remember well Mourinho giving a man of the match winning Joe Cole a barrage of criticism to the press and the result of this hard line was the best period of form in his career. Ferguson I am sure also is an incredibly tough disciplinarian behind the scenes and is never scared to tell the press after a game if his side was poor. It is a combination of fierce loyalty and harsh realism.

Monsieur Wenger again yesterday whether by direct speech or by implication laid the blame for yesterday's capitulation directly at the feet of the referee, blaming him for the two penalty kicks and for the circumstances regarding Abou Diaby's sending off. His reaction to the sending off was not to castigate his player for a silly act of petulance - he is a professional footballer paid to play and to deal with being fouled - which undoubtedly contributed to the final result but to claim that Barton should have seen red for the original tackle. It may well be that Barton should have walked but that is not the point, Wenger chose to whinge and blame others instead of saying 'Diaby should not have reacted and he needs to learn from it'. The message to his player is that it was ok to be sent off as the fault lay with the opposition player which is just a nonsense. From schoolboy level you are taught to never retaliate. Barton won yesterday by getting Diaby sent off, plain and simple and that is part of the modern game.

The decisions probably did not go Arsenal's way yesterday but the reality is it is the lack of mental toughness in the team that is the issue and not the blowing of the whistle in the opposition's favour. Grounds such as St James' are tough places when the home side has its' tail up and it calls for leadership and grit, Sunderland found the same thing out at the Brittania yesterday under a sustained and direct aerial and physical assault on Craig Gordon, and they also capitulated. Gordon looked like a startled rabbit come the end of proceedings.

Even under Wenger, Arsenal used to have lots of big characters come the physical confrontation, Keown, Adams, Vieira, Petit, Ian Wright, even Dennis Bergkamp had a nasty side, the current team of fancy micro munchkins doesn't want to know when it gets tough out there. Wenger's post match comments after recent Chelsea games have been almost comical, basically amounting to 'it wasn't fair because they were bigger than us'. Professional football is an incredibly physical game and that physicality being used as an intimidatory factor is part and parcel of professional sport and is used in every other game from rugby to cricket.

The sooner Wenger realises that the physical aspect of the game is just as import as the pretty football the sooner Arsenal might challenge for some meaningful honours. I don't remember ever seeing Barcelona outmuscled by anyone and they play infinitely better football than Arsenal or anybody else for that matter, that is the finished article and Arsenal are many moons away from being that, no nonsense.